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Putin: Russian state has never been involved in hacking

President Vladimir Putin said the Russian state has never been involved in hacking.

Speaking at a meeting with senior editors of leading international news agencies, Mr Putin added that some individual "patriotic" hackers could mount some attacks amid the current cold spell in Russia's relations with the West.

But he categorically insisted that "we don't engage in that at the state level".

Mr Putin also said that "no hackers can influence election campaigns in any country of Europe, Asia or America".

US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails, helping Donald Trump win last year's American presidential election.

At the same event, Mr Putin said Russian military deployments on a group of Pacific islands also claimed by Japan have been sparked by the US military build-up in the region.

The four islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the former Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War, preventing the two countries from signing a peace treaty.

The Russian leader said the US will likely continue to build up its forces in the region even if North Korea agrees to curb its nuclear and missile programmes.

Mr Putin also warned that attempts to contain Russia will not succeed.

Without naming any particular country, the president said that Russia has faced attempts to hurt its legitimate interests.

Russia's relations with the West have been at post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis.

The US and the EU have slapped Moscow with sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

He said that economic restrictions against Russia have had "zero effect", and predicted that the current strain in relations will ease, because it is "counter-productive and harmful".

Mr Putin said Moscow will wait until current anti-Russian sentiment in the US abates before trying to forge ties with Mr Trump.

The Russian leader said the current atmosphere "makes it somewhat inconvenient to work with one another or even to talk, but some day this will have to stop".

The Kremlin's aspirations for better ties with Washington have withered amid Congressional and FBI investigations into Mr Trump's campaign ties with Russia.

Mr Putin said the "Russo-phobic hysteria" in the US is aimed "against the current president of the US to prevent him from working normally".

However, Mr Putin predicted "this will end, sooner or later," adding that "we are patient, we know how to wait, and we will wait".

Mr Putin went on to hail Mr Trump as a straightforward person with a fresh vision.

He said Russia had been encouraged by Mr Trump's campaign statements in which the US leader lamented Russia-US ties being at a historical low and promised to improve them.

Despite probes into alleged Russian interference in the US election, Mr Putin emphasised that Moscow still hopes to forge a constructive dialogue with the Trump administration.

He praised Mr Trump as "a straightforward person, a frank person".

Mr Putin added that while some see Mr Trump's lack of political experience as a disadvantage, the Russian president sees it as beneficial because his US counterpart "has a fresh set of eyes".

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